Clinical depression is exhausting, debilitating, and taxing. It sucks the joy right out of one’s life and leaves nothing to be grateful for. Or does it? Suffering from depression, you may have been advised to be more grateful in life by your family, friends, peers, or even your therapist, only adding to your frustrations instead of actually helping. Because how can you practice gratitude when everything in your life seems like it’s falling apart? Right?
Well, however it may make you feel, it is actually true that practicing gratitude, while cannot magically cure your depression, can definitely help you cope better with the challenges of life and help you look at things with a positive outlook. True, it can’t be easy to force yourself to step out of this all-consuming gloom but has anything good ever been achieved without a little bit of struggle?
How about this Thanksgiving you break out of this darkness and gloom and at least try to find things to be grateful for, no matter how big or small? This article is Mooditude’s guide to practicing gratitude this Thanksgiving even when depression does everything in its power to rob you of all joy and color in life. This article includes:
- Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
- 7 Ways to Practice Gratitude When Depressed
- The Bottom Line
Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
Practicing gratitude may sound like a futile thing to do but it actually has several benefits, physical as well as mental. In addition, it can help you improve your social life and help maintain relationships. Benefits of being grateful include:
Improves Psychological Health
Several studies have been conducted to determine whether practicing gratitude can have an impact on mental health. It has been found that while not a cure, practicing gratitude can enhance the overall quality of your life by canceling unhappy emotions and enhancing mood. In positive psychology, a consistent practice of counting your blessings has been associated with happiness, which helps in alleviating the symptoms of depression.
According to a study by Virginia Commonwealth University, people who are thankful and those who tend to look at the positive things in life have a lower risk of developing clinical depression, anxiety, stress, and substance use and abuse disorders. According to another study, people who tend to practice gratitude regularly have higher levels of self-esteem, enthusiasm, alertness, and determination.
Improves Physical Health
Research has found that people of all ages and backgrounds tend to report being sick fewer times than people who are generally unhappy and ungrateful. According to a study, health problems such as gastrointestinal issues, headaches, dizziness, sleep disturbances, and stomachaches were significantly lower among a group of people who kept a gratitude journal. Still, a few other studies found that gratitude and physical health had no association whatsoever.
It is believed that perhaps physical ailments decrease over time among people who have been consistent in practicing gratitude. Perhaps it is due to the fact that practicing gratitude reduces stress and anxiety, the root cause of several of the above-mentioned physical health issues, such as gastrointestinal issues, sleep problems, and headaches.
Optimism opens up a light to the brightest of ends. When you appreciate the bits and pieces in life, you will learn the art of staying optimistic in any setting. When you learn to find gratitude in detail, you end up with endless openings and opportunities.
An optimistic approach and gratitude build up the base of great opportunities. Due to this, it has been proven to be a safety factor against depression and anxiety. The more you appreciate the mechanism of life the more you find positivity in feelings and acts. When you try to set up the mindset of negativity in your dark times, the power of gratitude replaces it with the light of optimism. The art of appreciation leads to the death of pessimism which ultimately inspires enthusiasm, laughter, and the triumph of many adventures.
Helps Improve and Maintain Relationships
Being grateful for little things in life has proven to be of excellent benefit when it comes to maintaining and forming new relationships and bonds. Being grateful makes you happier and encourages you to be more kind to people and feel empathy towards them. When you’re kinder and more understanding towards the people in your life, your relationship grows stronger.
In addition, having a mindset of gratitude also makes you appreciate each person for the role they play in your life and you begin feeling grateful for their presence in your life. When you express your happiness for their existence, it is highly likely that the appreciation will be reciprocated, satisfying your need to be appreciated as well, thus bringing you closer and motivating each other to do things that will nourish your bond.
7 Ways to Practice Gratitude When Depressed
Thanksgiving is all about counting your blessings and the things or people that have made a positive impact on your life. Depression can make you feel like you’re missing out on all the fun and increase your frustration at not being able to enjoy this festive time with your loved ones. It may feel like a time that is meant to bring families together is further isolating you.
With major depressive disorder, it is normal to feel this way, but you can always push through all the pessimism and actively try to take part in the festivities, no matter how forced it may feel in the beginning, you’ll eventually find yourself enjoying it. Here are 7 ways you can tune into the spirit of Thanksgiving and defeat depression through being grateful.
1. Gratitude Journaling
One research suggests that gratitude interventions such as gratitude journaling and the like ‘may increase psychological well-being and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety’ because they ‘allow individuals to positively reframe the stressful life events in the world and make more meaning out of them.’
A gratitude journal is exactly what its name suggests: a diary that can help you track all the good moments and things in life. Some people think it is a waste of time to keep a gratitude journal but it really isn’t. You don’t have to journal every day, a few times a week can be just as effective if done right. While journaling, the most important thing to ensure is to be as specific as you can be about the things you are thankful for so it feels more personal and not just something you’re trying to get done with.
2. Express Your Gratitude
In positive psychology, being positively expressive has immense benefits for your brain. Expressing gratitude out loud can encourage the release of serotonin and dopamine, encouraging positive sentiments and improving overall mood.
Expressing gratitude can be verbal, such as saying something as small as thank you, or it can also be done through actions. For example, if you are grateful to your friends, you can buy them a present, or flowers, email them, or write them a personal letter. Even something as small as sending a text message to them can make you feel very satisfied and happy. If you are grateful for an object, for example, you’re grateful to be alive and healthy, you can express your appreciation by being good to your body and eating healthy, or exercising.
3. Count Your Blessings
Take a look at the blessings you have in your life right now. Every once in a while, appreciate the little things you notice. They could be people or little moments that life treats you to. Of course, carrying your gratitude journal with you everywhere is quite impractical. Luckily, that is not the only thing you can use to jot down your blessings.
Simply recalling every single thing you have been blessed with from your fingers to your car, your house, and your parents in your mind, or counting them on your fingertips is a great way to practice gratitude. Because when you count your blessings, you realize life has given you so much that often evades notice.
4. Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness activities are excellent ways to incorporate gratitude in your daily routine. Mindfulness meditation allows you to focus on the present moment with full attention. Gratitude meditation is focused on expressing and focusing on being grateful.
Before beginning though, one must keep in mind that gratitude is not limited to the good things in life. Sometimes, even bad experiences are a great opportunity to learn and grow, and thus, they are also something to be thankful for. Gratitude meditation can be done exactly like regular meditation except focusing on things that have enabled you to learn and grow.
5. Observe and Compare Yourself to Others
Sometimes, we don’t realize how privileged we are until we encounter someone with barely anything and are still grateful for the little that life has given them. It’s not always a good idea to compare yourself to others but in this instance, it might be a good idea.
It is normal when you’re depressed to continue thinking negatively about your situation and only looking at things from a negative lens but it’s a great idea when you’re trying to be more grateful, to let yourself occasionally look at people enjoying less than what you currently have. It will allow you to be more thankful for the position you’re in right now when you see people being thankful for less than what you have.
6. Think About Loss
Often, in our busy schedules and our wallowing in self-pity, we forget that the world is temporary as are all the things it contains. People we love will eventually leave, memories too are fleeting and don’t last forever, and experiences, whether good or bad will also one day be forgotten.
Now we’re not advising you to be in a perpetual state of misery by thinking about losing things and people you love, but yes, thinking about loss, and visualizing it occasionally, can allow you to appreciate those people, moments, and even experiences in the present moment.
7. Don’t Take Your Blessings For Granted
We have gotten so accustomed to possessing some things and opportunities that we don’t even think about how much of a blessing they are and often take them for granted. We feel entitled to some of the things we own today; this body, these fingers, and toes, this life.
Have you ever stopped and thought about what it would be like if you lost a thumb? What will happen if you lose your best friend or your mother or your child? Have you expressed your gratitude to them for existing in your little world? It is so easy to forget that you are not entitled to these things and people. They could be here one day and gone the other. Learn to be grateful instead of taking them for granted.
Yes, it almost sounds stupid when someone says being grateful can help you with depression but once you really think about it, you’ll realize that while it may not be able to cure your depression, it will allow you to cultivate a positive mindset, which will, in turn, alleviate symptoms of depression with consistent practice.
This Thanksgiving, no matter how down in the dumps you feel, make a conscious effort to count your blessings and express gratitude for them. When was the last time you thanked your mom for just being your mom? How about you do that right now?